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Building Green for LEED Certification

Sustainable Construction with a LEED Certification Raises Home Equity and Lowers Energy Bills

© 2011 by All rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission. Author’s Google profile

Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) for LEED certification
Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) for LEED certification

Thid article was updated on 06/30/20.

LEED is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It’s goal is to promote certification that was developed by the US Green Building Council (USGBC). The purpose of building to certification standards is to reduce building’s environmental impact.

The LEED standards are set up for building both commercial and residential structures. On the residential side is LEED-H, where ’H’ stands for Home. The certification is based on a 136-point scale with four levels attainable. The four levels are Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Keep reading to discover how points are awarded.

It Starts with a Green Building Plan

We’ve all heard of green and sustainable building. These are the hot buzzwords thrown about by real estate agents, architects, building contractors, interior designers, and engineers. One issue is the same as with any other evolving concept.

That is that many homeowners and buyers don’t really understand how to tell the difference between an item that’s been “greenwashed” by the media and one that’ the real McCoy.

Understanding this, LEED has declared that the green rating is only to be certified by a disinterested third party. The original pilot plan was rolled out by USGBC and was officially adopted as the final standards in December, 2007. Note that this plan will undoughtably change with the times.

To start with, the documentation and certification procedure begins with selecting the building material before the ground is broken. Then the process continues throughout construction and outfitting the home with low-VOC materials where applicable, sustainable local manufactured goods where possible, and Energy Star appliances.

A Look at the the Certification Levels

As stated earlier, LEED-H is based using a 136-point system. This building standard is for an average-size home but is adjusted down for smaller-sized homes and up for bigger ones. Tiny houses can also achieve certification. Let’s address an average size home; here are the levels:

  1. Platinum must achieve 90 points.
  2. Gold must achieve 75 points.
  3. Silver must achieve 60 points.
  4. Basic certification must achieve 45 points.

How are LEED Certification Points Earned?

Points are allocated in these distinct categories:

  • Innovation and Design = a potential 11 points. Here, the architect aligns your home on your lot to take advantage of passive solar concepts. This is to take advantage of the sun and seasons for solar water heaters, window placement, photovoltaic solar panels, etc. Also, the home’s durability is defined in this phase.

  • Location and Linkages = a potential 10 points. Your home’s site (lot location) is chosen for environmental responsibility as well as access to public transportation, schools, shopping centers, etc. This one lends itself to master planned communities.

  • Sustainable Sites = a potential 22 points. Your site is also rated on how much it minimizes the impact your home will have on your immediate environment.

  • Water Efficiency = a potential 15 points. Water conservation is has become a global issue so it was built into the certification plan. What does it take into consideration? Interior usage for fixtures like low-flow toilets and shower heads, efficient clothes washers etc., and exterior considerations such as landscaping applications. The exterior items might be timed sprinklers and rainwater harvesting.

  • Energy and Atmosphere = a potential 38 points. This is to minimize your utility consumption. The home is engineered for a tight envelope, efficient use of insulation, and the design of your home’s cooling and heating system.

  • Resources and Materials = a potential 16 points. The concept is to minimize scrap construction material and to insure that your contractor takes maximum use of green material. A good example is the use of Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs).

  • Indoor Environmental Quality = a potential 21 points. This category takes into consideration the efficiency of the appliances that are used as well as how they are vented to the atmosphere. Using Energy Star dishwashers, refrigerators, water heaters, etc. will earn your points here.

  • Awareness and Education = a potential 3 points. This may seem like a fluffy category but it might garner you the points needed to ramp up to the next certification level. As the homeowner you need to be given a user’s manual. This is to ensure that you and your family can operate and maintain you home as efficiently as it was designed.

The Advantage and Future of Sustainable Building

The main advantage is that your home will be worth more. The resale value will increase. The LEED certification itself is equity. A secondary advantage is that you will enjoy lower utility bills in the long term.

The future? It’s open to speculation, but if the past and present is any indicator, rising energy costs and environmental social pressures will persist in fostering innovation. Building green for LEED certification should become more attainable and mainstream.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

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© 2011 All rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission.